I ran our first session of 3:16 Carnage Amongst the Stars tonight and I think it was a pretty good success. The players seemed pretty into the idea and grasped the freeform role-playing pretty good. I think depth of characters and such will come with time and getting to know each other more. As is, I think I am the only person to have spoken to all the players on some level (beyond maybe a few comments on the RPTools.net forum), so interaction between players and the “comfort level” that these guys have with each other is very low.
I think I spent too much time in the beginning setting things up and trying to explain the freeform aspect of the game. I think these guys are pretty smart and adaptable and could have done just fine without me taking the time to go into so much detail. But hey, I was a little nervous about it all. Additionally I think we rushed the actuall planet side scenes a little because it was getting late and we needed to wrap up. All in all I would say we spent an hour and a half on prep, getting everyone in the game and character creation. And then spent an hour on the rest of the getting ready on the ship, going down to the planet and the actual encounter with the aliens. We probably stretched it out a bit with me looking up some rules, going over rules from the book, explaining how things worked, etc. I suspect next time, in under an hour, we could accomplish what we went through today.
A few factors before the details, I think both of these weighed in on the game and had an effect on the overall session:
- This is a very freeform story-telling game, a far departure from what most of us have played prior to this.
- This is a new group of people that have never gamed together before, minus a few games I have played with Bryan and one I ran for two others. For the most part, none of the players have spoken to each other except for perhaps on the RPTools.net forum.
- I had asked all the players not to read the rules prior to play, this was a decision I made because I wanted to test this mechanic from a game designer stand point and had nothing to do with the rules. Did I like that? Yes, I think I did. ;-)
The players were:
- Sergeant Locke – Bryan (Religious Zealot)
- Cpl. Adams – Alex (Weird, Morbid & Strange) female ;-)
- Trooper Jax – Amaril (Arrogant hotshot)
- Trooper Lars – Ashler (The Cocky Jock that took to many steroids)
All in all, a pretty good set up. The fact that the religious zealot was in charge was great, he even renamed the squad the “Hand of God” LOL Sure that will come more and more into play if he lives. He even made a few prayers/religious comments throughout the game, which is a good sign for freeforming and getting into his character. Having the female second in charge will be excellent as well, if she ends up living and getting promoted to higher leadership…I can just imagine what this bunch of male pig trooper will say.
That said, I think this went very well. We started a little choppy, a few people were late or ended up not being able to play, so it delayed our start. I used a campaign file I found online at this site: http://renatoram.wordpress.com/ This package is frakking awesome and I highly recommend anyone wanting to use 3:16 in Maptool to use it. I switched out the map because I found one on the BoxNinja site because, well, it looked cooler than the default one. Had a much more ‘Aliens’ feel to it, which I think most of the players we familiar with and so added to the atmosphere of the session.
I told the players a few things about the setting before letting them pick names, sex, and a reputation for their characters. Then I started with a cut scene of the players waking up in cryo-tubes and some asshole named LT Grendellene yelling at them about getting off their ass and moving to a briefing room.
I added some role-playing and favor elements here, hoping to jump start the players’ spontaneous favoring skills. They were all naked, one selected to be a female (I am 100% positive this will come up later in the game), they were given orange hospital type smocks with open asses, and the room contained an open latrine (no privacy). It worked fairly well and I got some decent role-playing and freeforming here from the players.
We went into character creation as we were joined by one more player. Using the rules we selected our sergeant and the corporal for the squard (damn straight, the one female character is the corporal!). Next up we determined the planet and alien:
ALIEN ABILITY: 8 — Highest FA
PLANET NAME: Degas – Planteen
BASIC PLANET DESCRIPTION: Cloud/gas planet
BASIC CREATURE FORM: Oozes
ALIEN SPECIAL ABILITY: Ambush
Immediately, I thought about fudging the roll (I let the players roll for these) and picking something else than “oozes”, oozes just seemed stupid and non-alien-killing-action enough for me. Then I caught myself, “Stop houseruling the system!” I told myself and let it ride. I wanted to see the game system as written for a change. So I thought for a moment, oozes that ambush…..they can camouflage to disappear into their surroundings! Yeah, that’s the ticket! I figured they could hide on the ceilings, nearly transparent or something and drop on the troopers, giving them that ambush ability.
The squad was told to gear up and in twenty minutes be in the drop ship bay ready for deployment. Of course, we showed up late and drew snickers from the other squads and a few angry words from the LT as the squad settled in. MAJ Jenkins, a fat man who I tried to give a whimpy southern accent (a really, really bad attempt on my part), filled them in on details. A gas planet, civilians in need of rescue, aliens that are bad news, squads would have different target VIPs to pick up.
It was at this time that IT happened. To me, it stands out clearly as a point that I realized I was ‘trad‘ gaming (traditional gaming) and one of the players braved the leap to freeform. (Bryan and Ashler, this was the point I was trying to make and could not remember after the game.) When I stated to the players that they needed to save someone, I started writing down an idea, I wrote some doctors name down and starting thinking on the situation I (thought) I needed to set up for the rescue. Bryan chimed in and shed his trad gamer skin. He turned to his troops and told them they were to rescue some female ambassador named Helga. Pulled it right out of nowhere. Perfect. This was excellent, and part of how the game is supposed to function, with players throwing in their tidbits here and there and fleshing out the world.
Initially there were some discussion about how their guns were going to hurt these oozes they were fighting, I had the LT come up and blast the character for a bit and this seemed to quell the question. I HOPE that the player knew I was just trying to push HIM or ANOTHER player to come up with an answer to how it would work. Afterwards, it did not seem important and everyone was happy to be killing oozes.
By this time it was getting somewhat late (going to try to start earlier next time if we can get everyone together then) but I wanted to get one combat out of the way and under our belt, just so we could grow on it and let the system gestate a little before the next session. I described a scene, we landed on a landing platform near our target building.
SGT Locke (Bryan) marched us right in (if we had not been pressed for time I may have stretched this out a little) and the squad entered the lobby of the building where the ambassador is located. I threw down a Threaten Token so I could use the alien’s ability of Ambush. I goofed here and missed that they should have taken a kill, oopsie, but that was probably good because the squad would have hard trouble later on. I set them at close range and we started the combat, which proved to be swift, dangerous, and interesting. One player lobbed grenades and gave a kill to over half the squad! We realized we need to work out a way to do initiative, in MapTool we may be able to use the initiative tracker, but I need to play around with it, as this is a “new” thing for me that has been added since the last time I GMed using MapTool.
The squad made quick work, but took serious damage, with almost everyone using the Armor to take a kill, SGT Locke and Lars are Crippled….it doesn’t look good for our first combat, but hey, I fully expect someone to die in these games, if they don’t, well, it doesn’t sound like 3:16 to me. Odds are I will refit them with new armor before they continue on their mission, they are pretty messed up and we only took out 1/4 of the threat tokens in this fight.
We stopped there due to time. I really enjoyed the game, probably the most fun I have had with a freeform/non-trad game I have played yet, though InSpectres is a blast as well. I think the players grasped the idea of the style of play well and it will only take another session before they are going hog wild on me with the game. I had four players, but I can easily see running this with more. Even though there is leadership in the game with the SGT and CPL, I think the players have enough leeway to do their own thing for the most part and add to the setting as they want. When I mentioned to the players that if the table agrees on something, then we call it law and players added neat little details like a HUD on the Mandelbrite armor, one said his had a urine filtration system that allowed him to drink his own pee. LOL So, yeah, I think they are into the non-trad games.
edit: I just wanted to add a few thoughts after I posted this and it came to me that I forgot to mention. The campaign file that I found for 3:16 is completely kick ass, renatoram did an awesome job on it. I should also say there is an update that includes all the ranks (darn it! I missed this before). If you plan on using MapTool to run 3:16, and why would you think of using anything else, you need this. The players and myself were amazed how well this was put together, the dice rolls are clear, easy to read and track all the kills and wounds for you! Stunning in how well it worked. Kudos to renatoram!
Second, I wanted to say how great MapTool was for this session. Though we did not use it for a traditional map per se, along with the campaign file above worked so well that the program really melted into the background. I hardly even thought about the vt at all during the session. Honestly, I have not seen a vt and rule set work so well together to provide a fluid and intuative gaming experience as these two together. Kudos to trevor! ;)